Slideshow by Lisa Setyon and Cora Cervantes
The sound of nearly two hundred demonstrators could be heard throughout the Upper West Side last night declaring “Black Lives Matter” in Columbus Circle.
“People tell us we’re wasting our time, but civil rights wouldn’t have been passed if the people then didn’t do what they did,” said Priscilla Ortiz, 38, from Jersey City.
Hoods4Justice, a community organization in New York fighting for black and brown liberation nationwide, organized Saturday’s march. The march began at Columbus Circle, continued through Central Park, down Madison Avenue, and ended at Rockefeller Plaza with an uplifting call and response led by one of the organizers.
Some demonstrators wore t-shirts with “Black Lives Matter” proudly inscribed on their chests, and others wore Kaepernick jerseys in support of the NFL player’s recent stance behind the movement.
The demonstration was called “an emergency rally and march” on the Facebook event in response to recent cases of police brutality.
Tensions rose nationwide after the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher, 40, of Tulsa Oklahoma last week and Keith Lamont Scott, 43, of Charlotte North Carolina this past week, and protests erupted nationwide.
But beyond these two recent killings, Saturday’s demonstration in New York was part of the larger mission to effectively end police brutality. A mission that carries many more names on its list of victims – Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Kendra James, Alton Sterling and others.
“Listen, I don’t believe all cops are bad, but I think it’s come to a point where they’ve become a cult, and that’s not okay,” said Ortiz.
The New York Police Department was in full attendance. Blue uniforms lined the streets with barricades, vans, motorcycles and a helicopter patrolled overhead. The whirring of the propellers turned several eyes to the sky and provided an added layer of unease.
Ortiz has been an active demonstrator for most of her adult life. Growing up in Texas, she experienced first hand the tension between police and minorities.
“I was visiting Texas in 2012 and my car had New Jersey license plates. The cop pulled me over and said my backlights were out. My backlights weren’t out. You’re a minority driving down the street and they find a reason to pull you over,” said Ortiz.
Ortiz heard about the event on Facebook and came with her 3-year old daughter Elizabeth, who was wearing a button that read, “We need a Political Party of the 99%”.
“I’m here for one reason, justice. I bring my kids with me because this is where it starts from,” she said. “I’m fighting for my daughter’s future, my son’s future, and my own.”
As the crowd formed, Ortiz grabbed her megaphone, commanded the crowd’s attention and led them in several chants.
“Say his name.” “Terence Crutcher, Rest in Power.” “I Can’t Breath”
Also chanting in the crowd was Mimi McDermott, 74, of the Upper West Side.
McDermott was a part of many rallies in the sixties and has continued to participate throughout the years. She supported several movements including the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, and now, Black Lives Matter.
“We thought we made progress in the sixties, and I guess we did, but it’s back and even more vehement now because we know the problems and here we are again,” said McDermott.
McDermott reflected on her years of rallies and demonstrations.
“The issue is systemic and until it starts to change from the top, there won’t be any change,” she said. “It’s almost like a bacteria or a virus that’s become stronger.”
McDermott was uncertain of the lasting impact of the evening’s rally, but shared hope for an increase in the number of marchers.
As the rally began, more and more people passing by could be seen joining. The occasional scoff or “Blue Lives Matter” could be heard. But they were overpowered by the number of people stopped with a raised fist or a raised iPhone, which recorded a quick clip of the event.
Noreen Abouelnaga, 16, of Astoria Queens was out taking pictures at Plaza Hotel and eating lunch in Central Park when she and a friend stumbled onto the rally.
“In the media there’s a lot of anti-black especially when it comes to white people and police brutality, and so I thought it was okay to stop and say that black lives matter,” said Abouelnaga.
Abouelnaga comes from a Muslim household with immigrant parents. She talked about the constant struggle she has with them to understand race relations in the United States.
“I don’t want to say this, but my mom is really racist because she sees like, what the media shows,” she said. “So I have a black friend and she doesn’t let me hang out with her because she’s black.”
As a muslim, she said she can identify with the movement.
“I think if I stand here supporting black lives and Snapchat it or put it up on Instagram, and my friends see it, I think it gets the message to people my age that it’s not ok,” said Abouelnaga.
Donna Heyward, 47 of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Projects, said her stepson was killed by police. She attended the protest at 1 Police Plaza because she wants to stop police brutality she said grew under retiring NYPD Commissioner William Bratton. Photo by Cassidy Morrison
Margarita Rosario is angry. Her 18-year-old son and his cousin were shot 22 times and killed by police in 1995. She has been fighting for justice in the courts since that night, and she blames retiring NYPD Commissioner William Bratton.
Rosario of the Bronx, stood with a modest group of protestors just feet from hundreds of NYPD officers at Bratton’s retirement ceremony yesterday fighting for their voices to be heard over praise for Bratton. Rosario said Bratton’s controversial policing methods were to blame for an increase in police brutality and deaths.
Rosario’s son Anthony, was shot 14 times times, mostly in the back and side in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx in 1995. At her feet were various news stories and photos of the police brutality that has tarnished Bratton’s record. Bratton served in the NYPD from 1994-1996, and was reinstated by Mayor Bill de Blasio three years ago.
“When Mayor de Blasio put this criminal back into commission, it hurt me and other parents to see this man who has caused so many deaths”, Rosario said. “de Blasio didn’t care about the families. Again, he put Bratton in office. We just can’t get rid of this criminal.”
As Rosario spoke to the group, bagpipes sounded from across the plaza. The ceremony was set to begin soon, and more uniformed officers flooded in to honor their commissioner.
“I believe the blood that has been spilled in New York City has to do with Commissioner Bratton,” Rosario said fiercely. “They’re all corrupt, it doesn’t matter who places him. Corruption goes with police brutality.”
Detectives Patrick J. Brosnan and James Crowe were investing a robbery in a Bronx apartment in 1995 when they shot and killed Anthony Rosario and his cousin Hilton Vega, 21. A third suspect was wounded. Twenty-two shots were fired killing them both. Most of the shots hit the young men in the back. Family members said the men were face down on the ground when killed, but police say they were reaching for a gun. Police had responded to a call about the men stealing $50 from a neighbor. No charges were filed against police, but the families were awarded $1.1 million in a civil trial.
In his 46 year career as an officer, Bratton has served in Los Angeles, Boston and New York City. He resigned in July as the outrage over police brutality in the city increased.
Departments across the country imitated Bratton’s policies, including his “broken windows” policing, which held that violent crime could be deterred if police crack down on lesser crimes, such as turnstile jumping and graffiti.
Donna Heyward, 47 of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Projects, said she lost her stepson to Bratton’s policies in 1994 when he was just 13.
Heyward pressed herself against barricades separating her from NYPD officers congregated in 1 Police Plaza. She shouted expletives with tears in her eyes as officers, toting dogs and pepper spray, eagerly awaited the arrival of the famed retiring police commissioner.
“He should have never come back with his broken windows policy,” said Heyward. “I don’t see why they even let him come back in after the damage he did in the 90s.”
While the homicide rate declined significantly during Bratton’s tenure, criminologists concluded that focusing on more innocuous crimes had minimal impact on violent crimes. Homicides continued to plummet even after Bratton left the NYPD.
“It’s ridiculous how focused he is on neighborhoods where the underprivileged are living,” Heyward said. “Why do they harass these people? Why don’t they open up these communities and give youths something to do? They close every activity, they take everything away, to give themselves reason to have these kids arrested.”
While Mayor de Blasio has championed the protection of civil rights, the Inspector General for the NYPD has reported the department’s systemic singling-out of minorities, having received complaints including improper use of force.
“It’s all people of color,” Heyward went on. “We’re the ones who get it most. You open the news, you hear about the next black child who got killed because, ‘Oh, I thought he had a gun’.”
Some of the protestors held photos of loved ones, but others held news clippings featuring Eric Garner, who was placed in a lethal chokehold by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in 2014.
Protestors from all five boroughs waited with Heyward across the plaza laden with signs plastered with faces of young New Yorkers who had fallen victim to police brutality in the 1990s.
“Not all cops who live around me are bad guys,” said Gary Phaneuf, 54, of Staten Island. “I got a guy next door to me used to be DEA and he cuts my grass. But the really bad ones, like Pantaleo killing Eric Garner, it’s terrible. The idea that these cops get away with murder, it’s just terrible.”
In a New York Times op-ed, Bratton boldly called himself a “reformer”, having changed the way NYPD officers interact one another as well as with nonviolent criminals throughout New York City.
“There are police reformers from outside the profession,” Bratton wrote, “who think that changing police culture is a matter of passing regulations, establishing oversight bodies and more or less legislating a new order. It is not…what changes police culture is leadership from within.”
While Bratton maintained that cops could change other cops, public opinion of the police and confidence in the NYPD has remained low.
Hundreds of Occupy Wall Street protestors marched to the New York Stock Exchange early this morning only to find the building already occupied, this time by hundreds of police officers that barricaded the entire perimeter.
What was intended to be an act of civil disobedience turned into a cat-and-mouse chase with police, who prevented protestors from being able to occupy anything.
Divided into four zones within the Financial District–Education, Debt, Eco, and 99 percent–the goal of the protests was to form a “People’s Wall” surrounding the Stock Exchange before assembling at specific banks and financial institutions on Wall Street. But walls of police prevented the protestors from forming any kind of takeover.
Yet protestors like Robert Cammiso were not deterred. Cammiso, 49, of Prospect Park, Brooklyn, was one of approximately 25 protestors who convened at South Street Seaport early in the morning to protest tuition hikes and the increasing costs of a college education.
“Unfortunately, it will get worse as the day goes on,” he said of the police presence.
Cammiso, who spent 17 days at Zuccoti Park, the root of the Occupy movement that began last September, was laid off from his construction management job in 2009, a position he held for nearly 30 years. Unable to find work, he went back to school and enrolled at Brooklyn College, where he became involved with OWS through the Brooklyn College Student Union.
Cammiso was also one of 700 protestors arrested last October during an attempted sit-in on the Brooklyn Bridge. But the strategies have changed since then, and protestors are no longer staging any sit-ins.
“The tactics have changed from last year,” said Cammiso. “We no longer stand behind barricades, but we keep moving, and this prevents the police from massing in any one area and just creating a wall for us, which is what they are very good at.”
Still, more than 100 arrests were made by 11:30 a.m., according to the New York Times.
Monday marked the one-year anniversary of OWS that began in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park last September. The movement called for ends to social and economic inequality and raised concerns about debt, a stagnant economy, and the rising costs of education.
Despite different affinity groups and a vast variety of individual agendas, the protestors still remain united, said Amin Husain, an affinity group leader and Brooklyn native who helped organize the actions on Wall Street.
“There’s a consensus that debt is the threat that binds the 99 percent,” he said.
Cammiso echoed the same sentiment.
“Everything is interwoven, and in order to get people to understand them, you really have to pull them apart,” he said. “It’s not an equitable situation, and this march is about equity. There’s a class inequity and it’s been class war from the top down and we’re pushing back.”
Unfazed by the inability to take over specific targets, Cammiso and others regrouped and continued to march and protest in small groups. One group called themselves the “Balloon Brigade,” handing out balloons to protestors as an act of solidarity.
One year later and no longer holding Zuccotti Park as their own public forum, many protestors like Cammiso believe the causes and actions taken are worth fighting for.
“They thought we stopped, but one year later, we are still here,” he said.
Long after the red double-decker bus carried the newly crowned Super Bowl champs through the Canyon of Heroes, hundreds of Giants fans turned celebration into chaos.
A deep blue mob rode roughshod through Lower Manhattan’s Franklin Street, going on a two-block rampage that left at least two arrested, and an unmarked police car destroyed.
The incident started innocently enough, in the middle of Broadway at the intersection of Franklin Street, when the unruly fans started climbing up street signs, surfing through the crowd, and chanting, “Let’s Go Giants!” But quickly the mood changed.
In a crude homage to Eli Manning, fans of Big Blue chucked beer bottles and cans into the air, hitting some of their fellow fans in the face and drenching them in froth. The police quickly stepped in, forcing the group down Franklin Street towards Sixth Avenue.
Not content to simmer down, the group became increasingly brash, briefly jumping onto the roofs of the cars lining Franklin Street as they pleaded for their comrades to cheer them on. The group continued to the intersection of Franklin and Church Streets where they came to a standstill in front of police barricades, continuing to chant and pop confetti into the crowd.
The situation reached its crux when individuals from the crowd climbed onto an unmarked police car parked just inside the barricades. People from the mob took turns atop the police cruiser, first jumping up and down on the trunk and hood, before moving to the roof to get a higher vantage point.
When it became clear that damage was being done to the car, some fans climbed on top of the vehicle, catapulted themselves into the air, and body slammed the roof, collapsing it entirely. Another fan stomped the windshield of the vehicle, leaving it in shambles.
Giants fan Mohamed Yousef, 22, watched the incident unfurl.
“A bunch of people just took their shirts off and jumped on top of the police car,” Yousef said. “It was stupid, crazy, and unnecessary.”
After the car had taken a five minute beat-in, police quickly apprehended two of the shirtless ruffians, slamming them to the ground and cuffing them. The arresting officer had no comment on the incident, but verified that the destroyed car was in fact a police cruiser.
Ars Metnak, 22, said he had seen the same group of fans jumping on top of a van near the Century 21 in the Financial District earlier in the day.
“I don’t get it, the way they are acting is crazy,” said Metnak.
In an ironic twist, Herman Maisonave, 47, of Queens, stood just around the corner from where the perps sat in handcuffs, holding up a sign that read, “Please don’t arrest me. I’m not occupying Wall Street, just celebrating a Giants win!”
“I’m just here to poke fun at the NYPD, and give Giants fans something to laugh at,” Maisonave said. “I saw this coming.”
And while the rest of the dispersed mob lauded Maisonave’s sign as they walked by, the longtime Giants fan had harsh words for those that caused the bedlam.
“What they did, puts a sour note on all Giants fans,” he said.
Shortly after midnight, about 1,000 New York City Police Department officers in riot gear cleared Zuccotti Park of the Occupy Wall Street protesters who have called the downtown park home for the past two months.
The park was completely emptied of protesters, tents, sleeping bags, books and other belongings, by the New York City Police Department, the Fire Department and Sanitation Department, within a few hours.
“Protestors have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags. Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments,” Mayor Bloomberg stated in a press release.
Bloomberg cites dangers to public health, safety and accessibility for the clearance.
“The dangers posed were evident last week,” he stated in the press release. “When an EMT was injured as protestors attempted to prevent him and several police officers from helping a mentally ill man who was menacing others. As an increasing number of large tents and other structures have been erected, these dangers have increased.”
Occupy Wall Street demonstrators tied themselves to structures in the park to evade eviction, according to several protesters who were present when the removal process started around 1 a.m.
Kimberly Howard, 25, from Queens, confirms there were about 1,000 police officers present, some of which worked to remove protesters from the park.
“One female was in the position where she was sitting on the floor,”Howard said. “They lifted her up by all fours and went back. There were people chained to the kitchen. I’m hearing a lot of [accounts] of pepper spray, beatings, some people got arrested. These were the people there for it.”
Howard said trucks and police vans showed up after she left an OWS Spokes Council meeting.
“I witnessed Emergency Service Police come in with two officers standing in the streets [directing] multiple Emergency Service Unit Trucks,” she said. “They were moving them very fast. You could hear the engines, stop and speed up again. So, with that I knew something was coming up.”
There are various accounts of individuals being pepper sprayed after groups of protesters tried to get back to the park after police officials secured a circumference of two blocks around the block with barricades.
“I was pepper sprayed,” said Nicole Carty, 23, who had traveled from Brooklyn at 1 a.m. after getting Emergency Response text messages from OWS group members. “At least 30 people were pepper sprayed. There was a lot of police brutality all throughout last night.”
Several individuals who were pepper sprayed were led by others to open cafes around 2 a.m. where they were able to douse their eyes with a solution of milk and water.
Carty was one of the many people who received text messages from those in Zuccotti Park about the surprise clearance. She said groups of people walked the hours trying to figure out a way to get back to the park. NYPD officers forbid her from going towards the park, forcing her to walk north.
Before walking further away from the park, having arrived on the scene in a taxi cab, Carty recalls seeing the protesters who chained themselves to structures.
“I saw at least 40 people were locking down the park,” Carty said. “They eventually had to be cut out of those locks. Others kicked out of the park probably 100, 200 at least. They were told to go somewhere else. That was what I witnessed.”
People were trying to get through barricades set up on Broadway. Adding to the 200 people already on the scene, individuals were arriving by train and cabs, according to several witnesses who congregated in Foley Square and all around Lower Manhattan this morning to figure out the group’s next steps.
“They are pushing us against it,” Carty said. “They had these plastic buckets, they have helmets. They are literally squeezing people, crushing them against the wall. And people were trying to not be crushed against the walls. I saw a lot of brutality.”
This morning, Carty and Ethan Buckner, 20, from Minneapolis, Minn, and a small group of OWS supporters were making their way from Foley Square towards a large congregation in a park next to Sixth Avenue and Canal Street at approximately 9:30 a.m. Hundreds of protesters filled the square next to roads leading to the Holland Tunnel. More than a dozen police vans met the protesters as they settled.
Buckner witnessed people trying to “soft block” intersections around Zuccotti Park, but the group had trouble with the number of police officers “easily over 1,000” outnumbering those that were there.
“We realized they started bringing trucks of our tents out of the barricades,” Buckner said. “We decided to lock down the intersection. They threw away everything, books, tents, computers,everything.”
Several witnesses at the scene state it was mayhem as people were trying to figure our what to do. Many of the OWS demonstrators kicked out of Zuccotti Park found themselves at Foley Square, a few blocks north of City Hall.
Natas Rivera, 25, from Allentown, Pa., was at Foley Square after traveling throughout the night to make it in time to “protect” the movement.
“I watched it live,” Rivera said. “I saw cops taking people’s tents and throwing them into the street. They were literally throwing everything out over the fence. They started throwing stuff. I was ready to get arrested. I fight for what’s right.”
Rivera says the entire circumference of Foley Square was filled with people before the majority of protesters left the square for a victory march, learning this morning that there was a “Temporary Restraining Order” in favor of the protesters.
A lawyer on site at Foley Square would not speak on the record, but confirmed that OWS received word that there is a hearing scheduled for 11:30 a.m. called upon by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings regarding the demonstrators rights to set up camp at Zuccotti Park.
Meanwhile, OWS is moving forward with plans to “liberate space and build a movement” with an ongoing demonstration at Sixth Avenue and Canal Street.
Occupy Wall Street protestors arrived back to Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan at around 10:30 this morning, chanting, yelling and skirting dangerously close to a confrontation with police, who had barricaded the park after evicting protestors last night.
The police refused to allow protestors to re-enter the park, violating a temporary restraining order issued by the New York Supreme Court barring cops from keeping protestors out.
Many protestors held copies of the court order in their hands, while chanting “We have a court order!” and “You are breaking the law!” towards police.
Jonas Marton, 29, a lawyer with the National Lawyers Guild, was shocked that the police were not obeying the court’s ruling.
“It’s pretty staggering,” he said.
He explained that at 11:30 today, a judge would hear a final ruling on whether the protestors could occupy the park, but the temporary restraining order declared it legal for protestors to enter the park until that final decision was made.
Why, then, were police not allowing anyone in?
“(Orders) have got to be coming down from the top,” he said, adding that he meant Mayor Bloomberg and police chief Ray Kelly.
“(The police) have taken it upon themselves to reinterpret the law,” said Spencer Gray, 23 of Park Slope,Brooklyn.
Gray said he thought that the raid was hypocritical of police, who stood near signs saying that the park was open, and that he wouldn’t be surprised if police started arresting large numbers of people.
“It’s been ridiculous, and I think this is a prime example,” he said.
“I think it’s a shameful day,” said Robert Reiss, 55, of Murray Hill, Manhattan. “The mayor is missing in action on every moral issue.”
In the absence of being able to enter the park, protestors circled around the barricaded perimeter, many holding angry or profane signs about Mayor Bloomberg and the police.
When the mob first returned to the area of the park after marching from City Hall, several protestors removed barricades around the outer sidewalk surrounding the park. Just when it appeared that a confrontation between the swelling mob of protestors and the wall of police inside the park was inevitable, protestors began circling the park, apparently deciding that entering would result in chaos.
They continued to circle the park for an hour afterwards. Some stood along the barricades and asked police why they were refusing to allow protestors in.
“They say they’re following orders,” said a man who identified himself only as Billy W., 23 of Bedford Styuvesant, Brooklyn.
For most protestors, though, that explanation wasn’t good enough.
“This is revolutionary territory, and the mayor is thwarting it,” said Reiss.
“An explanation isn’t even necessary,” said Gray. “It’s pretty ridiculous.”